Recording day 0: the setup

A year or several ago, back when I was fresh out of uni (or thereabouts) and going to Orchard Baptist Church, I formed a band called Rooted from the young musicians there, taught them some of the songs I’d written, did a gig, and recorded an album.  That album, In the beginning, is available to listen to for free on our Facebook page, or you can buy a hard copy from me if you ask me nicely.

Now I’m about to start my next album.  It’s primarily a solo album, as I am currently without a band, although the plan is to get various people at my current church involved in various ways; they can then use the album to help raise money to replace the church roof.  Of course, with a not-quite-6-month-old baby in the house, recording at home becomes somewhat impossible, so very little has been done so far.  Thankfully, my wife came to the rescue with a cunning plan.

At the weekend we all went up to Gloucester, stayed overnight with Ellie’s Mum, drove to Peterborough on Saturday for a CYFA camp training day, drove back, stayed overnight again, and then after church I drove back to Somerset on my own, leaving wife and child in Gloucester.  They’re going to live it up at Grandma’s house, while I have the house to myself to record as much of the album as I can before they come back on Sunday.  That sounds like a challenge.

So, this afternoon I drove back, and promptly rested in front of the TV for a good hour or so to regain some energy and enthusiasm.  Then began the task of turning the lounge into a recording studio.  The big sofa was moved out of the way, the dining room table was lugged in to serve as a computer desk, the keyboard was moved out of the corner and into the centre of the room, guitars were got out of cases, all manner of cables were strewn on the floor, and the washing up was left ignored in the kitchen.  And thus began the week of bachelor-style squalor.

I’m using my G5 Mac to record everything onto, but that’s also the computer I use for work.  And technically I’m not on holiday, I’m just not doing quite as much work as normal, so I’ve been checking emails and suchlike throughout the day like a good little boy.  Of course, lugging the wrought iron G5 downstairs was a job in itself.  Okay, it’s not actually made of iron, but it has got a hefty metal case and weighs almost as much as me.  Still, before long everything was beginning to take shape, and cables were being plugged in all over the place.

I’ve got my electric guitar plugged into my guitar amp, which is plugged into a pre-amp (because I don’t have a mixer), which is plugged into a USB sound card, which is plugged into my computer.  I also have my bass guitar, which can be plugged straight into the pre-amp.  Then I have two microphones I can plug into the pre-amp, though not at the same time.  The keyboard is connected to the computer via USB and is set up as a MIDI device.  Sound output from the computer is sent to the USB sound card, which is connected up to my speakers, and headphones are plugged into the USB sound card as well so I can monitor the sound without it coming out of the speakers.  Sound complicated?  Below is a quick diagram I whipped up in MindNode:

And then came a problem no sound engineer should ever have to suffer.  I didn’t have enough cables.  Specifically, I didn’t have something to connect my pre-amp to my USB sound card.  Well, technically I did, but I was using that cable to connect the USB sound card to my speakers.  I needed two of the same thing.  As it was, I would be able to record OR play back.  Not both.  And you kinda need both to be able to record properly.

So, in the early hours of this evening, I had to put a halt to my studio set up.  I’ll have to pop out to Tesco tomorrow to see if they have what I need.  And before you start, yes I know Tesco aren’t renowned for their quality sound equipment.  But living in the middle of nowhere I don’t have a great deal of choice.  And besides, my so-called recording studio has zero budget, which is why I’m using a pre-amp instead of a mixer and computer speakers instead of monitor speakers and Tesco value cables instead of top quality insulated ones.  We make do with what we’ve got.

And tomorrow the recording begins…

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